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(L-R) University of St. Francis graduates Mr. James Shields-doctoral degree and Alex Cornwell-bachelors degree from School of Creative Arts.
(L-R) University of St. Francis graduates Mr. James Shields-doctoral degree and Alex Cornwell-bachelors degree from School of Creative Arts.

The award of an honorary degree is a statement on the part of that university that this is a life worth emulating.


The University of St. Francis led the way this year for commencement ceremonies. On Saturday, May 2, 2009 USF faculty was donned in long gowns a tradition that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Scholars wore such robes for warmth in the unheated buildings of the day, and also hoods to protect their shaved heads. The hood was also used to collect alms from more affluent members of the community. Distinctive variations of the hoods eventually became an ornamental symbol, draped over the shoulders and down the back.

This code of dress, reviewed and revised many times has become standard for most American colleges and universities.

The most distinctive feature of American academic dress is the hood, which indicates by its color and design, its wearer’s degree and the institution that conferred the degree. The hood is lined with the color of the college or university granting the degree, and is faced with a color indicating the subject of specialization. The holder of a degree from the University of St. Francis would wear a hood lined in blue and white.


This year James Shields was donned with the blue and white hood. Mr. Shields attended St. Joseph’s College in Ressalear, Indiana, on a football scholarship before serving in WW II. In 1946, he put on his sweater and white shirt and went to work at Merrill Lynch as a board marker making $120 a month. He ended his 28-year career wearing a suit and tie as a Senior Account Executive-the top in the Midwest. Over the years, Mr. Shields has served as Chairman of the Board of Brammel, Kitco, Huntington Electric, Acme Heat Treating, Parrot Markets, and St. Anne’s Home.

James Shields founded WaterFurnace International, Inc. 25 years ago, and is still actively involved in the business renamed, WaterFurnace Renewable Energy, Inc. Mr. Shields’ green company is a leading manufacturer of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional geothermal and water source heat pumps. In 2007 WaterFurnace broke the $100 million sales mark for the first time.

He also served on the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph College and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Instrumental in supporting football at the University of St. Francis, Jim is a charter member of, and continues to serve as a Director on the Athletics Committee of the Board of Trustees. In the fall of 2008 Mr. Shields was named Honorary Alumnus of the University of St. Francis.


The academic cap was a later development in academic attire. It was conferred as a symbol of the Master’s degree, but has become a regular part of the academic attire. Some caps were stiff, some soft, some square, some round with a tuft in the center. The tassel of today is an elaboration of the tuft. Round caps are still used at some institutions. The mortarboard style of cap comes to us from Oxford University. The cap is usually black, like the gown. Its tassel is either black or in the color of the degree in that particular field. Antique gold or gold tassels are worn by holders of doctoral degrees.


Donning the gold tassel on his mortarboard, Mark F. Hagerman was awarded an honorary Purdue University Doctor of Letters degree during Indiana University-Purdue University – Fort Wayne’s commencement ceremony Wednesday, May 13 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Mark leads the oldest and finest four-generation construction firm in the Midwest — The Hagerman Group. Founded in 1908, the Hagerman Group consists of three outstanding construction firms: Hagerman Construction Corporation, GDH, LLC and Hagerman, Inc. providing construction services to both private and public sectors. The firm has offices in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Lafayette, Indiana.

Mark’s family was instrumental in building historic Fort Wayne. The Hagerman Group broke ground in August 1929 despite the stock market crash on Black Tuesday, October 29, for the Lincoln Tower, and construction continued on the $1.3 million structure and was completed in November of 1930. This was one of many significant projects built by the Hagerman family. Another was the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum built in 1952, for $3 million, its steel frame was the longest span, all-welded, rigid, steel frame ever used in the construction technique at that time. The roof was raised 41 feet by Hagerman in a major renovation and expansion in 2002, increasing the seating capacity to nearly 13,000 with luxury suites.

While still attending high school, Mark began his career with the family business. He started at the bottom and worked his way up learning that anything worth building needs to have a strong foundation.

Hagerman Construction has been the general contractor for five of the main buildings on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne – Kettler Hall, Walb Student Union, Helmke Library, the Classroom-Medical Building and the Science Building as well as several buildings on the W. Lafayette campus and currently, Purdue University’s Hockmeyer Hall of Structural Biology to be completed in fall 2009.

Hagerman is a member of the John Purdue Club and he and his family established the Ted Hagerman Purdue Foundation Scholarship at IPFW in memory of his late father. The company was also the sponsor of the IPFW-Hagerman Habitat for Humanity House project last year.

For twenty-five years Mark has been actively involved with the nationally recognized Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo as a board member, twice serving as the board president, and chairing the last four capital campaigns raising more than $20 million.


Retired Indiana State Senator Robert L. Meeks also received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from IPFW.

Meeks served 20 years as state senator. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Meeks assisted IPFW in obtaining money for the Medical Education Building and the John and Ruth Rhinehart Music Center.


“Both Bob Meeks and Mark Hagerman have been wonderful contributors to the growth of IPFW, Fort Wayne, northeast Indiana and the entire state,” IPFW Chancellor Michael A. Wartell said in a statement. “It is with great satisfaction that I see them recognized with these honorary degrees.”

The Waynedale News Staff
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